Performing arts has always been – and will always be – fertile ground for documentary filmmaking. Clashing egos and high stakes in the pursuit of a craft is always going to be fun for a camera to follow, and we’ve seen it work multiple times over in movies like Every Little Step, Mad Hot Ballroom, and First Position.
Ballet Boys follows in the footsteps of these films with the stories of Lukas, Syvert, and Torgeir – three teenaged male dancers at the Norwegian Ballet Academy figuring out their futures. The synopsis tells us it’s a film about “disappointments, victories, forging of friendship, first loves, doubt, faith, growing apart from each other, and finding your own way and own ambitions” – against the backdrop of ballet. But in sacrificing the high stakes of dance for teenage emotions, Ballet Boys emerges as a rather shallow look at both topics.
The biggest problem with Ballet Boys is its length. At only 72 minutes long, it really doesn’t get a chance to do much of anything – posing a problem when the film essentially asks us to get behind three protagonists. The biggest thing we learn about Lukas, Syvert, and Torgeir is their varying commitment to their craft – Lukas is seemingly born to dance, Torgeir is a new recruit but a natural, and Syvert can’t quite make up his mind as to whether he wants to stick with it. They’re the best of friends, and they’re all about to finish secondary school. That’s about it – the film’s short time doesn’t give us enough of a chance to spend time with any of them. We’re present for their successes and disappointments, but the film dulls the emotional high points in utilising multiple climactic events – a competition, an audition, an acceptance letter. The film’s dance sequences are nice to look at, but aren’t quite dynamic or frequent enough to carry the film – for three fantastic dancers, we don’t get to see them dance all that often.
We’ve seen it all before, and seen it done better – Ballet Boys is good enough to pass the time but takes a rather disappointing bow.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 73 minutes
Ballet Boys will screen as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival 2014, touring Australia throughout July. Info on dates, tickets, and schedules can be found at the official website HERE